Trial of Boko Haram Suspects: Court Grants Protection to Prosecution Witnesses

A Federal High Court in Abuja Tuesday granted prosecution application to shield witnesses that will testifying in the case against seven suspected Boko Haram members.
In granting the application, Justice John Tsoho said the prayers of the submissions of the defendants’ counsel did not affect the substance of prosecution’s application.
However, he struck out paragraph 4A of the affidavit.
Earlier, the prosecution team led by Shaibu Labaran had prayed the Court that identity of prosecution witnesses should not be disclosed and bar the public from covering the trial being suspects on trial for allegedly belonging to a proscribed group.
Labaran also sought leave of the court for prosecution witnesses to be protected, forbid the proceedings to be reported and make the report inaccessible to the public.
He also sought in the application for witnesses to be addressed with pseudo names.
He said the application was supported by six-paragraph statement deposed to by an operative of the State Security Service (SSS) and three paragraph affidavit.
However, counsel to the third and sixth defendants said part of the grounds on which the prosecution sought the application were offensive to the provision of Evidence Act.
They argued that some of the paragraphs were incompetent and thus should be struck out.
According to him, an operative of the SSS who sworn to the affidavit said he got information from Shaibu Labaran, an external fact.
He said this was not acceptable as the person who sworn to the affidavit did not carry out the investigation.
Counsel the 3rd defendant, Elijah Oloruntoba said “It is our humble submission that the some of the grounds of the application are incompetent, especially ground one, which is against the Evidence Act and should be struck out.
K. Abdulkarim, counsel for the 6th defendant held he was not opposed to trying the suspects in secret but was against some of the grounds. “Ordinarily we are not opposed to secret trial but we pray the court to expunge paragraph 4A of the affidavit that offends provisions of the Evidence Act.
“Section 150 of the Evidence Act of 2011 and Section 36 of the Constitution as amended said affidavit shall not contain extraneous facts
“An accused is presumed to be innocent until the court says so. But ground one of the application sworn to by the prosecution assumed my client to be guilty even before he is tried.”
However, Labaran countered that since the defendants’ counsel did not oppose all the sections of the application rather than only ground one and paragraph 4A that they were against there was still grounds for the application to succeed.
“Drawing inference from their submissions my Lord, assuming the Honourable Court expunges paragraph 4A in the affidavit and ground one there will be other paragraphs which the counsel did not object to. Section 115 (1) of the Evidence Act, every affidavit used in court should contain evidence of fact or knowledge, which he believed to be true.”
He urged the court to grant the applicant.
Justice Tsoho consequently struck out paragraph 4A and said that ground the defendants complained about does not affect the case.
On the second application of the prosecution counsel asked the court to vary its easier order to remand the defendants in Kuje, adding they should be allowed to remain in the cell of SSS because of security challenge at Kuje Prison.
The Judge reserved ruling till April 25.
The Federal Government had slammed an 11-count charge against the seven suspected members of the Boko Haram sect, to which they all pleaded not guilty when read out to them in the court.
The suspects, who were Tuesday arraigned before Justice John Tsoho are Mohammed Usman (aka Khalid Albarnawi), described as the leader of a Boko Haram splinter group, Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan (a.k.a ANSARU); Mohammed Bashir Saleh, Umar Bello (aka Abu Azzan); Mohammed Salisu (Datti); Yakubu Nuhu (aka Bello Maishayi), Usman Abubakar (Mugiratu) and a lady, Halima Haliru.
The defendants, were charged with conspiracy, hostage taking, supporting a terrorist group, membership of a terrorist group, illegal possession of firearms and concealing information on terrorism.
They were charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism, contrary to Section 17 of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011, as amended in 2013, and punishable under same.
The defendants were accused of murdering, “Internationally Protected Persons (IPPs)”, contrary to Section (3) (a) of Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 as amended in 2013 and punishable under same.
According to the charge filed by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the defendants, on February 2013 at Ikirima Boko Haram Camp in Sambisa Forest, allegedly “murdered seven internationally protected persons – Carlos Bou Azziz, Brendan Vaughan, Silvano Trevisan, Konstantinos Karras, Ghaida Yaser Sa’ad (F), Julio Ibrahim El-Khouli and Imad El-Andari – and buried the bodies in a shallow grave.
They were charged in count four, with hostage-taking, contrary to Section 15(c) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011, as amended in 2013, and punishable under same.
The defendants were alleged to have, on February 18, 2013, at Life Camp Yard of SETRACO Construction Company in Jama’are, Bauchi State, “did knowingly seize and continue to detain” the seven expatriates, “at Ikirima Boko Haram camp in Sambisa Forest for about 10 days before their eventual murder.”
They were, in count five, accused of knowingly gave “an explicit condition for the release of the seven expatriates” and they were also accused of being members of a “Boko Haram splinter group known as Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan a.k.a ANSARU being a proscribed terrorist group in Nigeria, contrary to Section 16 (1) of Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 as amended in 2013 and punishable under the same section of the Act.”
The seven defendants were equally accused of being in possession of firearms without licence, punishable under Section 27 (1) (a) (1) of the firearms Act Cap F28 LFN 2004.
The prosecution said firearms were recovered from Usman’s house at Rafin Guza, NDC layout, Kaduna State, sometime last year.
The arms included five AK-47 rifles (serial numbers 75582, 439106, 4483, 53964 and 3792); an unserviceable AK-47 rifle (serial number destroyed); nine detached bullets of assault rifles; one locally-made revolver; two locally-made single barrel pistols; two locally-made double barrel pistols; one locally-made incomplete short gun and three working parts of assault rifles.
The charge alleged that Usman “used the firearms, with other members of the proscribed ANSARU sect, to unleash terror against unsuspecting Nigerians, foreigners and the Nigerian state, and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 27 (1) (a) (i) of the firearms Act, Cap F 28 LFN 2004.”

Author: News Editor

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